Debates will frame 2016

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OPERATIVES for 2016 have been saying that plans are in place to control the outcome of 2016. Instead of buying votes that it is more beneficial to secure new electronic voting machines.  That scenario can only play if the candidates of the administration have numbers.  Without the numbers, a machine controlled and led victory is doubtful.  And that is why Plan B becomes viable. By controlling Poe and transacting Poe via Escudero, this administration has second wind.  The talks of Plan B is becoming more and more loud as we hit the third week of January, when Poe’s case before the Supreme Court will unravel and very near to February 9.

Poe’s twin manufactured narratives bring her to the attention of the voters. That she is not natural born, became a story of foundlings and that she lacks the material residency requirement, became an “honest mistake” and of late, finally revealing that she indeed used her US passport when before it has been a complete denial.

The search for the parents, the DNA tests and the TVC that hers is a situation similar to FPJ are the storylines that continually grind to milk the issues and gain support.  Would her name be on the ballot? The timelines are getting tight but this administration needs a Plan B.

And so, the next battle would be the Comelec initiated debates.  Pursuant to Republic Act 9006 or the Fair Election Act, the Comelec may require national television and radio networks to sponsor at least three national debates among presidential candidates and at least one national debate among vice presidential candidates during the campaign period
This Comelec debates are a welcome development since all campaign plans would have to take these three debates for the presidential race and a single debate for the vice presidential race seriously.  Spread over  the 90 day period, the debates will definitely frame and prime the campaigns.  Interestingly, even the media partnerships have been predetermined as well as the location and the topics.


All debates will be on a Sunday, from 5 to 7 pm.  The build up alone pre and post can influence the way campaigns roll out from ground to air wars. It can make or unmake a candidate, which is a good way of measuring candidates, assuming the viewers and listeners have also done their research and all. The first presidential debate will be in Mindanao on February 21 with GMA Network, together with the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

The first debate, which will be done in the dual-moderator format, will be held at the Capitol University in Cagayan de Oro City, Misamis Oriental. The second debate, in panel format, will be held in Visayas, scheduled on March 20, with TV5 and The Philippine Star. The third debate will be in Luzon on April 24 with ABS-CBN and Manila Bulletin. It will be in a town hall format. And the lone vice-presidential debate will be held in Metro Manila on April 10, with CNN Philippines, Business Mirror and Rappler.

Debates will show who is prepared, who knows the issues and can offer clear solutions as well as reveal to the public the demeanor of each candidate.  Depending on the rules adopted, the debates can be a source for voters to get to know candidates well and since TV is a cruel medium, the trained eye and an observant viewer can see through the lies and propaganda.  The fact that candidates have not been on one stage together hypes the scheduled debates.  Comelec has also adopted a “leave a vacant seat” protocol for those who will not show up. At the rate that we have statistical tie, based on the last commercial poll reading, voters will all the more engage.

The voter side though will have to be captured in the program and this is where voter sentiments can be measured and from there, position the candidate in its post event activities.  And since every month in the 90 day campaign period, a debate is scheduled, both feline and online strategies of the respective campaign teams will have to be prepared to create a multiplier effect in convincing voters.  A campaign team that makes the scheduled debate the heart of communication in the 90 day campaign period as well as field operations can reposition their candidate every debate salvo.

The Comelec led debates are extraneous variables to any campaign plan.  It has to be handled professionally and strategically.  A candidate who cannot break his/her thoughts in understandable fashion may be in a disadvantage. A candidate who is glib is an easy tune out option. The debates will show much to the viewer what has not been done in a controlled environment like TVC or RC. More than that, it could potentially reveal a candidate’s soul, when properly prompted. For “deliberation and debate is the way you stir the soul of our democracy.”

As Nelson Mandela once said, “a good leader can engage in a debate frankly and thoroughly, knowing that at the end he and the other side must be closer, and thus emerge stronger. You don’t have that idea when you are arrogant, superficial, and uninformed.”

After the debates, could manufactured consent still be viable? Only the incumbents can launch such an operation.  But how could they when they already ridiculed voters as “bobotantes”?

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